Last week, we plunged into the intensely-competitive race for .music, one of hundreds of unreleased domain name extensions.
These extensions are collectively worth billions, and .music has the potential to transform music online. That would explain why an RIAA-led consortium called ‘Far Further’ is taking strong steps to gain control over all .music registrations, with potentially disastrous implications for the broader music community. At a top level, Far Further plans to limit registrants to members of an organization list that includes the RIAA, A2IM, ASCAP, and SoundExchange, while seizing domain names from those that decide to cancel their memberships.
It all sounds like a recipe for marginalizing an otherwise great domain extension, and replicating fates like .info and .biz. But according to experts we’ve been talking to, it probably won’t get that far. The reason is that the Far Further approach almost guarantees an epic failure under stringent ICANN rules. That is, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit gatekeeper that applies strict application review – and has already collected its $185,000 application fee.
And, a huge part of the problem is – you guessed it – the hyper-exclusive, boys-clubby behavior involved. Essentially, there are two different modes of application here – ‘Community,’ and ‘Standard,’ with the former getting preferential treatment in the name of a more open internet. But according to experts we’ve interviewed, there needs to be a serious, more inclusive community, not a made-up clubhouse. “ICANN calls for a pre-existing community, something that existed before,” an expert close to ICANN who reviewed the application told Digital Music News. “You can’t just say, ‘we’re going to create our own community and that’s that.'”
In fact, the entire application was deemed amateurish on a number of levels. “There’s a real experience issue here, and without the technical knowledge of the process, they’re likely to run into difficulties.”
This isn’t just about bad manners. Rather, these issues are highly-problematic within an extremely difficult point-scoring system. ICANN requires 14 out of 16 points across different criteria, and quickly throws offending apps in the trash. “Based on this graded points system, the Far Further application fails to achieve the minimum number of points required in order to be considered for community,” a separate source flatly predicted.
Which means Far Further is probably D.O.A., based on a myriad of problems tied to registration rules, user authentication, and community problems. But it may also mean that another community applicant – one simply called .MUSIC – will also experience serious difficulties given the fractious nature of industry support.
The next steps are difficult to predict, though assuming a failure of the community registrations, ICANN then shifts to a bidding battle between ‘standard’ applicants. That game is more about cash, and less about the nuances of a community. Which in turn favors applicants like Amazon and Google – both of whom are in the running – and both of whom have bottomless pockets to secure this domain.
More as it emerges.